Monday, 22 December 2014

The 'Tactical' Polygraph

The 'Tactical' Nuclear Missile

Related to ...

Jim Cannot Let Go - Perhaps He Never Will :(


Published online: 24 Feb 2014

The use of tactical polygraph with sex offenders


"Professionals who work with sexual abusers often are faced with a significant obstacle: offenders' failure to accurately report their histories of undetected offences, particularly hands-on crimes against children.

The implications are significant and include poor risk assessment, misguided treatment planning, inadequate sentences, and insufficient supervision conditions.

This problem is particularly important with so called child pornographers—offenders whose known criminality is limited to the Internet, and who may be reluctant to admit they have engaged in the hands-on abuse of children.

The current study examines an investigative method that we refer to as tactical polygraph and describes its effectiveness in identifying previously undetected sexual offending within this population.

In our sample of 127 suspects with no known history of hands-on offending, only 4.7% admitted to sexually abusing at least one child. During polygraph procedures, an additional 52.8% of the study sample provided disclosures about hands-on abuse they perpetrated."

Michael L. Bourke, Lance Fragomeli, Paul J. Detar, Michael A. Sullivan, Edward Meyle & Mark O'Riordan - Full (pdf) - Full 


Selection, Engagement and Seduction of Children and Adults by Child Molesters


Initially, let us be very clear what our position is, and has always been.

We would be amazed, if relevant hands-on offenders, given free access, to exciting images of the young, did not own these images.

We would be amazed, if relevant non-hands-on offenders, given free access, to exciting images of the young, did not own these images.

Indeed, we would be amazed, if the majority of such people, did not own these images.

In a regime of restricted access, to such images, we would expect the ownership to be reduced, for both cohorts.

Bearing that in mind, for now, we will will critique the approach.


Points, as they arise ...

We really do not know what went on in these 'rapport interviews', within the three agencies. No details of discussions, quasi-plea-bargains, manipulations and other possible unethical procedures. We are asked to believe the ethical position of the authors (already seriously flawed) and the FBI et al (little to be said, there).

Credence is given to these 'amiable specialists' ...

July/August 2004, Vol 35, No. 7

Detecting Deception 

Human lie detectors

"In June, APA teamed up with the FBI and the National Institute of Justice on a comprehensive workshop for top law enforcers on the use of intuition. Experts presented the latest research on detecting deception and related psychological topics such as bias and event memory. Ekman thinks such behavioral training may help authorities spot subtle cues that they might miss because they deal with so many liars.

There are no signs of lying per se, but rather signs of thinking too much when a reply should not require thought, or of emotions that don't fit what is being spoken, he says. "We train people to look for 'hot spots,' where they're not getting a full account," he explains.

His Institute for Analytic Interviewing trains people to detect deception in the context of research findings on personality, memory and more. For example, Ekman says that skilled interrogators build rapport with suspects: "People will tell their story if they think you're being open-minded."

Meanwhile, Ekman has teamed with psychologist Maureen O'Sullivan, PhD, of the University of San Francisco, the lead investigator on a study of the hard-to-find, very small fraction of emotionally intelligent people who can very accurately distinguish deceptiveness from truthfulness. Some of them use the demeanor and vocal clues mentioned in this article, but others base their judgments on behaviors and word usage that no researcher has previously identified, O'Sullivan explains.

Can psychologists learn from these divining rods to train less-sensitive people? Ekman thinks more research is needed. O'Sullivan speculates that it could work only for those with some core skill: "Not everyone can be an Olympic athlete," she explains. "Agencies should identify people with basic talent and train them."

Shedding more light on the matter is Frank of Rutgers, who, with Tom Feeley, PhD, of the University at Buffalo of the State University of New York communication department, recently examined the research on training in the detection of deception.

"It showed that although the training methods used by most researchers were clearly inferior [such as just 10 to 15 minutes of training], there was still a significant--if weak--training effect. So we speculated that if training were done properly, it could work considerably better," says Frank.

Psychology could have a lot to offer, write DePaulo and Morris in their forthcoming book chapter: "Good human lie detectors, if there are such persons, are likely to be good intuitive psychologists. They would figure out how a person might think or feel if lying in a particular situation, then look for behavioral indications of those thoughts or feelings."

In the end, detecting deception is all about honesty. Ekman concludes, "It's much harder to find the truth than to find a lie. A good lie-catcher is good at identifying truthfulness.""

... being able to tell truth from lie, even without the polygraph ...

July/August 2004, Vol 35, No. 7

Detecting Deception 

"Telling a little white lie may on occasion soothe ruffled social feathers, but covering up a murder plot or withholding information on terrorist cells can devastate individuals and society at large. Yet detecting deception often stumps the most experienced police officers, judges, customs officials and other forensic professionals. Research has shown that even agents from the FBI, CIA and Drug Enforcement Agency don't do much better than chance in telling liars from truth-tellers."


Detecting True Lies: Police Officers' Ability to Detect Suspects' Lies

"Police manuals typically give the impression that police officers who are experienced in interviewing suspects are good lie detectors (Inbau et al., 1986/2001).

Although previous research could not support this view whatsoever, our study, superior in terms of ecological validity over previous research, revealed that these claims are true to a limited extent.

Police officers can detect truths and lies above the level of chance and accuracy is related to experience with interviewing suspects.

However, the results also revealed serious shortcomings in police work. First, accuracy rates, although above the level of chance, were far from perfect and errors in truth/lie detection were frequently made.

Second, police officers tended to pay attention to cues which are not diagnostic cues to deceit, particularly body cues, such as gaze aversion.

There might be various reasons why these nondiagnostic cues are so popular, but in part perhaps the discussion of these cues as diagnostic cues to deception in popular police manuals, such as the manual published by Inbau and colleagues, could be blamed.

In fact, our research revealed that the more police officers follow their advice, the worse they became in their ability to distinguish between truths and lies."

The Truth About Lie Detection 

"As the best researchers can tell, and in my own experience as an FBI Special Agent (now retired), detecting deception is very difficult. Every study conducted since 1986, when the famed researcher Paul Ekman first wrote about this, has demonstrated that we humans are no better than chance at detecting deception (Ekman & O'Sullivan 1991, 913-920; Granhag & Strömwall, 2004, 169; Mann & Vrij 2004). That means that if you toss a coin in the air you will be as likely to detect deception as the truth. And while it is true that a very few people are better at detecting deception than others, they are barely above chance. In fact, those that are really good are only correct somewhere around 60% of the time; that means that 40% of the time they are wrong and you would not like them sitting on a jury judging you."

"We all have a stake in detecting deception, after all, no one wants to invest with another Bernard Madoff or date a Ted Bundy. But we have to be realistic as to what we can detect, as Paul Ekman warned us decades ago (Ekman 1985,165-178). This goes for law enforcement officers, judicial officers, and clinicians, as well as the average person interested in the topic. It is also my hope that researchers in the future will consider who is tested, where they are tested, and how they are tested to give us a more accurate view as to who really is good at detecting deception and under what circumstances."

Polygraphs ...

The Truth About Lie Detection

"As for the polygraph, what can I say? Here is a machine that is very precise, which is why polygraphers reverently refer to it as an "instrument" and yet it does not detect deception. Wait, what? That is correct. A polygraph machine is not a lie detector and the so-called "instrument" does not and has never detected lies (Ford 1996, 221-236). It merely recognizes physiological changes in reaction to a cue (a question) but it doesn't detect lies and it can't. I repeat it can't. It is the polygrapher who interprets the instrument and your reactions to it and decides whether or not there is deception. It is this human factor, not dissimilar from some of the activity noted above, that the courts have found wanting (this is why polygraph result cannot be used against you in court) and why the American Academy of Sciences had less than choice words for the use of the polygraph in its formal report on the polygraph in 2002."


January 02, 2015 3:43 PM ET

Trial Of Polygraph Critic Renews Debate Over Tests' Accuracy

""You're a fool if you go into a lie detector test thinking that telling the truth is good enough," Moskos says.

The polygraph's power as an interrogation aid depends on whether people believe in it, and many critics think that's why the government has come down hard on anti-polygraph trainers."


Sexual Offender Treatment, Volume 9 (2014), Issue 1

Polygraph Testing of 'Low Risk' Offenders Arrested for Downloading Indecent Images of Children


Polygraph testing is not without its critics (British Psychological Society, 2004; Fiedler, Schmid, & Stahl, 2002). However, much of the criticism relates to unsupported or unjustified claims of efficacy and accuracy, or to poor practice. There is evidence to show that applied properly and interpreted carefully, polygraphy can play a valuable role in a number of settings (Grubin & Madsen, 2005; Grubin, 2008; Honts & Schweinle, 2009). It is important, however, that examiners are competent and subject to stringent quality assurance.

Our findings suggest that polygraphy can be a useful adjunct in the investigation of men arrested for downloading indecent images of children. The study was small, however, and far from definitive. We believe larger trials are warranted, particularly given the difficulties inherent in accurately assessing men whose offending comes to light because of the internet. It remains to be seen whether those arrested for downloading indecent images of children will continue to agree to polygraph testing, and if they do whether the proportion whose risk assessment remains unchanged will alter. The views of their legal representatives will also be of interest." 


Probation Journal 0264550515571395 

Polygraphs and sex offenders; The truth is out there


Polygraphs (or lie detectors) have been introduced into the UK for the first time despite continuing concerns about their reliability and the ways in which they will be deployed. The police are enabled to use them on a ‘voluntary’ basis and the probation service on a ‘mandatory’ basis if their use has been made a condition of post-custodial supervision. This article seeks to bring the polygraph story up to date and pose the questions that are still unanswered as the use of the polygraph begins.


It is interesting to speculate on why the polygraph is being introduced into England and Wales now. Cynics might point to the General Election in May 2015 and see it as just a pre-election gimmick by politicians wanting to promote a ‘tough on crime’ image. As such it stands alongside the recently announced requirement on Young Offender Institutes to turn out all lights by 10.30 p.m. (Bowcott, 2014b) and the tightening of Open Prison rules following recent episodes of prisoners going missing (BBC News, 2014b).

Even if we are being unfair on the government’s motives, questions still remain about the effectiveness and the ethics of polygraphs including such basic questions as the right to privacy and the right of the state to deliberately induce states of anxiety in its citizens, in order for the polygraph to pick up on that state of anxiety. The polygraph gives a veneer of science and medical aura which research suggests it does not deserve.

We might also question why it is only being used on serious sex offenders who are some of the most disliked of offenders. Using the sex offender as homo sacer − life without form and value, stripped of political and legal rights accorded to the normal citizen (Spencer, 2009) − might be just the start of a slippery slope that will lead to a more widespread use once the polygraph has been embedded in the public’s consciousness.

Grubin states that he has already been in discussions with employers who think polygraphs could be useful in the pre-employment screening of those who want to work with children (cited in Bowcott 2014a); presumably this includes people being polygraphed who have no relevant convictions because they would not be short-listed had they declared such convictions as required - and if they had not declared them then a DBS conviction record check would reveal them. Lie detectors used because we can rather than because we need them – is this a solution in search of a problem?"


Sex Abuse vol. 25 no. 3 259-281

The (F)utility of Post-Conviction Polygraph Testing


The apparent utility of the polygraph to work both as a treatment and supervision aid and as a deterrent for future offending is cited as ample justification for its use.

This article examines these claims to demonstrate that although post-conviction polygraph testing may have some utility by increasing disclosures of prior offending and, within specific cases, admissions of treatment and supervision violations, the limited evidence accumulated thus far does not adequately ascertain its accuracy nor support its efficacy or effectiveness as a deterrent.

The article concludes with recommendations for creating a real evidentiary base beyond polygraph testing’s apparent ability to elicit more information from offenders to evidence that can determine whether it is efficacious and effective in reducing criminality and deviance." 


More to follow.

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